Hannah Emerson Dustin was an ancestor of Helen B. Rausch who organized our chapter on May
27, 1922. The following provides more information on Hannah Emerson Dustin.
Text from “Historical Collections, Being a General Collection of Interesting
Facts, Traditions, Biographical Sketches, Anecdotes, &c., Relating to the History and Antiquities of Every
Town in Massachusetts, with Geographical Descriptions” by John Warner Barber, published 1839 by Dorr, Howland
Photos from the Hannah’s History
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|On the 15th of March, 1697, a body of Indians made a descent on the westerly part
of the town, and approached the house of Mr. Thomas Dustin. They came, as they were wont, arrayed with all the
terrors of a savage war dress, with their muskets charged for the contest, their tomahawks drawn for the slaughter,
and their scalping knives unsheathed and glittering in the sunbeams. Mr. Dustin at this time was engaged abroad
in his daily labor. When the terrific shouts of the blood-hounds first fell on his ear, he seized his gun, mounted
his horse, and hastened to his house, with the hope of escorting to a place of safety his family, which consisted
of his wife, whom he tenderly and passionately loved, and who had been confined only seven days in childbed, her
nurse, Mrs. Mary Neff, and eight young children.
This road marker has been placed next to the Merrimac
River near the site of the monument below.
Immediately upon his arrival, he rushed into his house, and found it a scene of
confusion - the women trembling for their safety, and the children weeping and calling on their mother for protection.
He instantly ordered seven of his children to fly in an opposite direction from that in which the danger was approaching,
and went himself to assist his wife. But he was too late - before she could arise from her bed, the enemy were
Mr. Dustin, seeing there was no hope of saving his wife from the clutches of the
foe, flew from the house, mounted his horse, and rode full speed after his flying children. The agonized father
supposed it impossible to save them all, and he determined to snatch from death the child which shared the most
of his affections. He soon came up with the infant brood; he heard their glad voices and saw the cheerful looks
that overspread their countenances, for they felt themselves safe while under his protection. He looked for the
child of his love - where was it? He scanned the little group from the oldest to the youngest, but he could not
find it. They all fondly loved him - they called him by the endearing title of father, were flesh of his flesh,
and stretched out their little arms toward him for protection. He gazed upon them, and faltered in his resolution,
for there was none whom he could leave behind; and, indeed, what parent could, in such a situation, select the
child which shared the most of his affections? He could not do it, and therefore resolved to defend them from the
murderers, or die at their side.
In 1879 this monument was erected in City Hall
Park, Haverhill. The granite pedestal is 9 feet high. On each of the 4 sides which are 4 feet square at the
base, are bas-relief in bronze, portraying Hannah's capture, her husband's defense of the children, the scene
of killing the Indians, and finally her return to Haverhill with the nurse and boy in a canoe; under each of these
scenes is a suitable inscription.
|A small party of the Indians pursued Mr. Dustin as he fled from the
house, and soon overtook him and his flying children. They did not, however, approach very near, for they saw his
determination, and feared the vengeance of a father, but skulked behind the trees and fences, and fired upon him
and his little company. Mr. Dustin dismounted from his horse, placed himself in the rear of his children, and returned
the fire of the enemy often and with good success. In this manner he retreated for more than a mile, alternately
encouraging his terrified charge, and loading and firing his gun, until he lodged them safely in a forsaken house.
The Indians, finding that they could not conquer him, returned to their companions, expecting, no doubt, that they
should there find victims, on which they might exercise their savage cruelty.
The party which entered the house when Mr. Dustin left it, found Mrs. Dustin in bed, and the nurse attempting to
fly with the infant in her arms. They ordered Mrs. Dustin to rise instantly, while one of them took the infant
from the arms of the nurse, carried it out, and dashed out its brains against an apple-tree. After plundering the
house they set it on fire, and commenced their retreat, though Mrs. Dustin had but partly dressed herself, and
was without a shoe on one of her feet. Mercy was a stranger to the breasts of the conquerors, and the unhappy women
expected to receive no kindnesses from their hands. The weather at the time was exceedingly cold, the the March-wind
blew keen and piercing, and the earth was alternately covered with snow and deep mud.
They traveled twelve miles the first day, and continued their retreat, day by
day, following a circuitous route, until they reached the home of the Indian who claimed them as his property,
which was on a small island, now called Dustin's Island, at the mouth of the Contoocook river, about six miles
above the state-house in Concord, New Hampshire. Notwithstanding their intense suffering for the death of the child
- their anxiety for those whom they had left behind, and who they expected had been cruelly butchered - their sufferings
from cold and hunger, and from sleeping on the damp earth, with nothing but an inclement sky for a covering - and
their terror for themselves, lest the arm that, as they supposed, had slaughtered those whom they dearly loved,
would soon be made red with their blood, - notwithstanding all this, they performed the journey without yielding,
and arrived at their destination in comparative health.
The family of their Indian master consisted of two men, three women, and seven
children; besides an English boy, named Samuel Lennardson, who was taken prisoner about a year previous, at Worcester.
Their master, some years before, had lived in the family of Rev. Mr. Rowlandson, of Lancaster, and he told Mrs.
Dustin that “when he prayed the English way he thought it was good, but now he found the French way better.”
These unfortunate women had been but a few days with the Indians, when they were
informed that they must soon start for a distant Indian settlement, and that, upon their arrival, they would be
obliged to conform to the regulations always required of prisoners, whenever they entered the village, which was
to be stripped, scourged, and run the gauntlet in a state of nudity. The gauntlet consisted of two files of Indians,
of both sexes and of all ages, containing all that could be mustered in the village; and the unhappy prisoners
were obliged to run between them, when they were scoffed at and beaten by each one as they passed, and were sometimes
marks at which the younger Indians threw their hatchets. This cruel custom was often practiced by many of the tribes,
and not infrequently the poor prisoner sunk beneath it. Soon as the two women were informed of this, they determined
to escape as speedily as possible. They could not bear to be exposed to the scoffs and unrestrained gaze of their
savage conquerors - death would be preferable. Mrs. Dustin soon planned a mode of escape, appointed the 31st inst.
for its accomplishment, and prevailed upon her nurse and the boy to join her. The Indians kept no watch, for the
boy had lived with them so long they considered him as one of their children, and they did not expect that the
women, unadvised and unaided, would attempt to escape, when success, at the best, appeared so desperate.
On the day previous to the 31st, Mrs. Dustin wished to learn on what part of the
body the Indians struck their victims when they would dispatch them suddenly, and how they took off a scalp. With
this view she instructed the boy to make inquiries of one of the men. Accordingly, at a convenient opportunity,
he asked one of them where he would strike a man if he would kill him instantly, and how to take off a scalp. The
man laid his finger on his temple - "Strike 'em there," said he; and then instructed him how to scalp.
The boy then communicated his information to Mrs. Dustin.
|The night at length arrived, and the whole family retired to rest, little suspecting
that the most of them would never behold another sun. Long before the break of day, Mrs. Dustin arose, and, having
ascertained that they were all in a deep sleep, awoke her nurse and the boy, when they armed themselves with tomahawks,
and dispatched ten of the twelve. A favorite boy they designedly left; and one of the squaws, whom they left for
dead, jumped up, and ran with him into the woods. Mrs. Dustin killed her master, and Samuel Lennardson dispatched
the very Indian who told him where to strike, and how to take off a scalp. The deed was accomplished before the
day began to break, and, after securing what little provision the wigwam of their dead master afforded, they scuttled
all the boats but one, to prevent pursuit, and with that started for their homes. Mrs. Dustin took with her a gun
that belonged to her master, and the tomahawk with which she committed the tragic deed. They had not proceeded
far, however, when Mrs. Dustin perceived that they had neglected to take their scalps, and feared that her neighbors,
if they ever arrived at their homes, would not credit their story, and would ask them for some token or proof.
She told her fears to her companions, and they immediately returned to the silent wigwam, took off the scalps of
the fallen, and put them into a bag. They then started on their journey anew, with the gun, tomahawk, and the bleeding
trophies, - palpable witnesses of their heroic and unparalleled deed.
The bronze statue of Hannah which tops the granite
is 6 feet high. One hand grasps a tomahawk, while the other seems to be pointing to the future generations
to forever keep in mind their sacred responsibility in the
Protection of the Home.
A long and weary journey was before them, but they commenced it with cheerful hearts, each alternately
rowing and steering their little bark. Though they had escaped from the clutches of their unfeeling master, still
they were surrounded with dangers. They were thinly clad, the sky was still inclement, and they were liable to
be re-captured by strolling bands of Indians, or by those who would undoubtedly pursue them so soon as the squaw
and the boy had reported their departure, and the terrible vengeance they had taken; and were they again made prisoners,
they well knew that a speedy death would follow. This array of danger, however, did not appall them for home was
their beacon-light, and the thoughts of their firesides nerved their hearts. They continued to drop silently down
the river, keeping a good lookout for strolling Indians; and in the night two of them only slept, while the third
managed the boat. In this manner they pursued their journey, until they arrived safely, with their trophies, at
their homes, totally unexpected by their mourning friends, who supposed that they had been butchered by their ruthless
conquerors. It must truly have been an affecting meeting for Mrs. Dustin, who likewise supposed that all she loved,
- all she held dear on earth - was laid in the silent tomb.
After recovering from the fatigue of the journey, they started for Boston, where they arrived on
the 21st of April. They carried with them the gun and tomahawk, and their ten scalps - those witnesses that would
not lie; and while there, the general court gave them fifty pounds, as a reward for their heroism. The report of
their daring deed soon spread into every part of the country, and when Colonel Nicholson, governor of Maryland,
heard of it, he sent them a very valuable present, and many presents were also made to them by their neighbors.